The focus of the Haram al-Sharif, or the Temple Mount, a religious sanctuary in Old Jerusalem that is sacred to Jews, Muslims, and Christians, is the Dome of the Rock. Built from 688-691 BCE by Caliph Abd al-Malik, it is the earliest surviving Islamic building with the world’s oldest mihrab, or niche that indicates the direction of Mecca.
The Dome of the Rock is not a mosque, but a shrine built over a sacred stone that Muslims believe is the spot from which the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven. Jews and Christians believe the rock to be the place where Abraham prepared to sacrifice Isaac and they also believe that the building stands over the site of both Solomon’s Temple and Herod’s Temple.
Caliph Abd al-Malik covered the magnificent dome with gold, but today the dome is covered with aluminum; nevertheless, the stunning effect of the light reflecting off of the dome remains the same. In 1545, Suleiman the Magnificent sponsored the exterior decoration with beautiful colored tiles, which cover the top half of the exterior above glistening white marble.
The octagonal-shaped building has two round walkways, called ambulatories, in the interior so that pilgrims can walk around the sacred rock. The central-planned building not only imitates early Christian religious structures and the nearby Holy Sepulcher, it competes with them with its magnificence and splendor. And in the 7th century, it proclaimed Islam’s control over Jerusalem.
More image of the Dome of the Rock